Clock's Ticking: Obamacare Deadlines and Penalties

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on January 27, 2016 10:59 AM

It's the start of a new year and you have resolved that in 2016, you will get a handle on administrating your life. But the stars have not quite aligned and you find yourself at the end of January with much to do, including choosing a health insurance plan.

Open enrollment for Obamacare -- officially known as the Affordable Care Act -- ends on January 31. The clock is ticking and consequences for missing this deadline could be severe, so here's help to get this year off to a healthy start.

What You Need to Know

1. Cost of No Coverage: Even if you never get sick and think health insurance is not worth it for you, consider getting insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Apart from the usual reasons people get insurance -- we never know what will happen and prefer to be covered should something go wrong -- the consequence for not signing up for healthcare coverage in 2016 is getting higher.

In 2014 the penalty for failure to carry health insurance was $95 or 1 percent of household income; the government was easing Americans into the idea of mandatory enrollment. Last year, the price for failing to be insured was $325 or 2 percent of household income, whichever was higher.

This year, the increase is substantial. If you do not carry health insurance, you will pay a penalty of $695 or 2 percent of household income. The point of these annual increases is to incentivize all Americans to sign up for health insurance, as the success of the Affordable Care Act relies on widespread coverage to keep healthcare costs low. So participate or pay the (rising) price.

2. Deadline for Enrollment: As noted above, the deadline for enrollment in a health insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act is January 31 this year. As with the penalty for failure to enroll, the deadline has become more strict with time. In 2014, we had until mid-March to contemplate plans and last year's enrollment deadline was mid-February.

3. Time to Make a Change?: While you will be automatically enrolled in your health insurance plan if you were signed up last year, the government suggests that you take the time to review your plan regardless. "If you were automatically enrolled, your savings may not be accurate for 2016 -- and you may have missed seeing new plans that work better for you. You can update your information and change plans until January 31," advises Healthcare.gov.

Consult With Counsel

If you are confused about the Affordable Care Act, or just need help taking care of the many administrative aspects of modern life, talk to a lawyer. We could all use some guidance sometimes. Consult with counsel and get help.

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